Dubbo – thirteen steps between life and death.

Ok, we’ve finished with rhinos. I found all of them, took photos and wrote a report.

So, what else was exciting in this town? Unfortunately, not much. There were a few small restaurants, a shopping centre and a variety of little shops. However, I still found some interesting things, like, for example, this cute graffiti. I think it is quite good, isn’t it?

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I also was very pleased to find Subway restaurant. I had my dinners there twice. Lucky, it’s open till 9 pm. I was really bored in Dubbo during my short stay. Would I be able to survive there for longer? Not so sure though. However, if I had family or friends,  it would be much more welcoming.

Anyway, I went for a walk and found this old bridge. For me this rusty construction had an old-worlde appeal.

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A new bridge was built nearby for vehicles and pedestrians.  As for this one they probably don’t know what to do with it.
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I managed to find something exciting – the Old Dubbo Gaol, which was open for public. I decided to give it a go and bought the tickets ( luckily , they were not expensive). And I really loved this place.

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It was built in 1847 and did not change much until it was officially closed in 1966. At the moment all buildings are listed in NSW State Heritage Register to ensure protection of its collection for future generation. This bell was relocated in 1966 with prison closure, but later it was restored and put back into its original place.

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On weekend and school holidays there are night and ghost  tours as well as theatrical performances. But in my case I had to entertain myself. Self-guided tour maps and audio guides were available, which was very helpful.

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Many cells exhibited animatronic human figures, which were sensor activated. Two Dark Cells  were reserved for the dangerous criminals on the death raw. The prisoners were kept in complete darkness and silence, which was very mentally challenging. Later it was considered inhumane and this sort of punishment was stopped. The “prisoner” in the first cell told  his story and movesd his head and arms. It looked very realistic in the darkness. (This particular photo and the other ones inside the buildings are not very good due to dim light. Even my super-duper new iPhone had troubles to adjust an exposure).

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This prisoner obviously suffered from fever or something even worse. When I came close to the door, he lifted his head, looked and me and moaned. I swear, if I saw this guy in the dakrness or during the Ghost tour I would be scared out of my brains,  because those figures are so much human alike.

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At some stage in the past two prisoners tried to escape by burning  a hole in the ceiling. The photo below showed their unsuccessful attempt. And as a result they got their time extended and punished by flogging.

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At the moment in Australia we are witnessing a huge splash of political correctness. Sometimes it comes to a totally absurd point, when politicians wish us “Happy Seasonal Holidays!” instead of good old “Merry Christmas”. The motives behind this strange behaviour are to keep happy the minorities, who came here, to Australia, by their own will, but because of their religious beliefs don’t want to celebrate or hear about Xmas.

While visiting the Old Dubbo Gaol, I was wondering why the prison portrays all prisoners like people of European origin and Caucasian appearance? Historical records mentioned that at least half of the offenders were NOT Europeans. (I am following our politicians now by not calling a spade a spade). The authorities probably decided to be on the safe side. I think the exclusion of people not of European descent from the exhibit supports the myth that the early settlement of Australia was only a white one. It is often overlooked when talking about Australia’s history but there were immigrants from all corners of the globe before Federation. Even though they were prisoners, it would be nice to see them represented because these people from other parts of the world shaped Australia’s history in a profound way.

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At the gaol male prisoners were occupied with wood cutting, gardening and tailoring. Prison management tried to teach them some new skills, which would come handy to support themselves, when those men released from the prison.

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Once a week the clothes and sheets were sent for washing.

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At the time the washing procedure was quite primitive: wash tub and this “device”, which could squeeze water from the sheets. I believe, it was a hard work.

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While in cells the inmates had to use buckets to relieve themselves. And every morning prisoners were dumping sanitary waste into this disposal unit. It looks like a toilet, but about 20 cm down there were iron grates, which prevented attempts to escape.

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The small female division was designed for female prisoners. There were only six women imprisoned in the whole history of Dubbo. Women had a bit more freedom, however they were still confined to tiny exercise yard, covered shelter, kitchen and bathroom. Majority of females were sentenced for adultery or infanticide. ( In those tough times to be a single mother was worse, than take a risk and get rid of the baby).

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In this cell inmate Catherine Warren tells her unfortunate, but an interesting story about “love goes wrong”. Love triangle did not work well, and a magistrate, John Oxley Norton, was shot by his lover Catherine.

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Here was a large number of devices, used for the punishment of prisoners.

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This strange contraption was used for punishment by flogging with a “cat-o’-nine-tails”. Prisoners were put face down and their limbs strapped to the table legs. Doctors were usually present to determine if the person can take any more lashes. When the prisoners would pass out from the pain, cold water was thrown on them and the punishment continued. At the completion of lashing,  a handful of salt was spread over the wounds as an antiseptic. This measure probably helped to keep them clean, but I am scared to think how those people would feel.

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In this prison the death execution took place 8 times. The actual noose and ropes were on display in this cabinet.

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A glimpse into officers quarters. (Is it Coca-Cola on the top of the cabinet?).

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This small device below is called Watchman’s Telltale. There were actually four of them on each end of the western and eastern blocks, library and the remand yards. The idea was that the wardens would put a key in and turn it. This would wind a spring inside. If the warden would not repeat the same procedure within an hour, the alarm bell would be activated by unwound spring alerting an officer. That could mean that the guard did not do his duty or got into some sort of trouble.

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The photo below is of the Gallery of the Condemned. Between 1877 and 1904 in Dubbo Gaol eight men were executed by hanging. Only two of them were the actual murderers (more or less proved guilty). For other six prisoners the evidence was circumstantial. But a that time the mitigating circumstances were not recognized and the penalty was death. A few people claimed that they killed in self-defense or in passion. Three men were Chinese and one Aboriginal –  with their very limited or no English at all they hardly could defend themselves. No women were executed at the Gaol. The photos of those prisoners and their stories are on display in this hall.

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I personally really liked hologram exhibition, which told the story of one state executioner Nosey Bob. It was very clever delivered by a storyteller, who moves around the original exhibits such as leg irons, original hangman noose and the model of the gallows.

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This famous Nosey Bob was young and handsome, when he arrived to Australia from mainland. Soon he bought a horse with  a carriage and organised “taxi” business. For a while Bob was very successful especially among young ladies. But unfortunately his horse kicked him into the face and totally disfigured his nose. Bob recovered from this horrific injury, but became really ugly. His business collapsed as nobody wanted to sit with him in a carriage. Desperate for some income he applied for a position of a hangman and got it.  As story goes he was a very thorough one. Bob would come to the prison a week before the execution, assess the weight and built of the prisoner, calculate the length of the rope and even try hanging on the sack with sand of the same weight. Apparently, this is a skill to hang the person, because he has to die from broken neck and severed spinal cord in a few seconds, but not from asphyxiation which can take up to five minutes.

During his long career as a hangman, the Nosey Bob made only one mistake, when the person was decapitated due to the very weak neck muscles.

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And this is a replica of the real gallows. This structure was erected every time when execution was supposed to take place, so it wouldn’t constantly stay in the yard unnecessary upsetting the prisoners. When not in use the parts were kept under the courthouse. The hangman’s kit and the gallows are unique for the Old Dubbo Gaol.

Prior to the execution the prisoners were transferred to the condemned cells, where they were under 24 hour watch. It could take up to two months before they were executed.  Some of them were also chained in the cell. The youngest person executed was 19 years old and the oldest 65. Three people were buried on the prison grounds, but nobody knows  exactly where.

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Thirteen steps were separating Life from Death. Only thirteen steps….

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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